Between evolving social norms, technology and the added restrictions of COVID, the landscape has completely changed for singles looking to meet and spend time with someone special.  In fact, the term “dating” is definitely not to be used so cavalierly and is now considered a term reserved for a relationship status that has already progressed through two or three prior phases.  

Marybeth Bock, MPH, researcher, and author, has accurately identified what has replaced the old-school concept of dating:

  • Phase One commences with Social Media Research, also known as “Stalking.” In under three minutes, enough data can be gathered to let the teen know if they even need to contemplate moving on to the next phase. Of course, dating apps, such as the top three Bumble, Tinder and OkCupid, have become staples and can fast-track Phase One even more efficiently. 
  • Phase Two can begin if the two online personas look mutually acceptable enough to move forward. This is known as “Talking” — which is a total misnomer, as it usually just consists of reciprocated Snap Chats and texts. Phase Two can last for days or months. 
  • Phase Three, known as “Hanging Out,” can begin if Talking goes well and the willing participants want to move on. This can occur in groups, or with just the two people involved. At this stage, parents might foolishly assume dating has commenced, but that term still should not be used, unless your teen or young adult has explicitly used it themselves first. 

But what hasn’t changed is the need to understand the importance of healthy relationships.

Character remains the most important aspect of any relationship: online, face-to-face, short-term, long-term, romantic, or just friends. We use the Whole Person Circle as a great resource for a multi-faceted approach to knowing themselves and others. 

Most of the initial attraction in a relationship, let’s face it, is a physical attraction. That has not changed over the centuries. A look from someone who notices you, and you notice them back often sends sparks flying. The challenge now with online apps is you see what the other person wants you to see. The environment, the pose, the filter, the projection- they are all controlled by the poster. It is important to not only be aware and wise to deception, but to consider their own profiles and what they are projecting. Are you being honest and real? How can you determine if what you are seeing is honest and real?  Is honesty important in a relationship? The best strategy is to BE the type of person you want to attract. 

This part of the whole person goes beyond the physical attraction and explores the intellectual part of a person. What does this person like to read? What or who influences their opinions? What are their goals? What value do they put on learning new things? What do they think about most? This can add a whole new strategy to online texting conversations. 

We encourage getting to know the emotional part of a person by observing how they act when they are sad and when they are happy; when they’ve succeeded at something as well as when they have failed. Do they punch holes in the wall when they are angry or release a diatribe of expletives? Do they normally “fall fast” in relationship? Or move on quickly when there is conflict? Do they have irrational mood swings or stay level in emotional circumstances? Online or offline, emotional stability can make or break a relationship. 

The social part of a person tells you about their family and friend dynamics, as well as organizational groups they participate in (think sports, clubs, extracurricular activities). Do they act the same when they are around friends? Do you like each other’s friends? How do they treat and interact with their family members? Do you share the same interests? What is their family of origin like? How do they view family gatherings? Do they attempt to control or restrict how much time you spend with family or friends? These are critical things to know about someone you want to be in a relationship with.

The spiritual part of your whole person can refer to your faith or faith walk, but not always. The spiritual you can answer the question, “why am I here?” It helps define your passions, your purpose, and for some, how your faith shapes your passions. Getting to know someone at this level reveals what drives them, what is important in life, what purposes they desire to fulfill. When these are in opposition in a relationship it can cause a lot of conflict and confusion.

The financial part of a person is not just about their status, or bank account or income. In fact, as it relates to relationships, it’s more important to know how they view and manage their finances. Status, bank accounts and income can all change. What you want to learn is, are they a saver or a spender? Are they accustomed to earning their income or have they been provided for? Are they excessive in their spending or thrifty? Could this person sustain financial goals (paying off debt, saving for a house)? Do their moods or circumstances impact their spending habits? How were they raised to think about money? Do you agree on contributions to organizations, missions, or other charities? Money arguments are the second leading cause of divorce.

Truthfully, the physical part of a relationship tends to be the easiest part of a romantic relationship and the easiest to get distracted by. Whether you are “dating” in person or online, the best investment you can make in a meaningful, rewarding, and HEALTHY relationship is to be intentional about getting to know that WHOLE PERSON. 

And remember, you need to BE the type of person you wish to attract!